Selling the marital home with no equity left


I refinanced the marital home five years ago to pay off my wife in our divorce. There was a balance left, and we agreed to wait five years and either refinance or sell the home to pay the balance.

The value of the house dropped substantially, and there is no equity left. Can I insist she wait until the value of the home recovers before selling or refinancing?


First, I am not licensed to practice in California nor am I familiar with California law, but it depends on the terms of your agreement as to whether or not you can insist that you wait to sell the home.

If the agreement to sell (or refinance) was contingent upon paying the balance, i.e. contingent upon equity in the home, you may not have to sell the home since the ability to pay off the balance was a condition placed on the agreement to sell.

Additionally, if the house is the marital home and you will take a loss in the selling of the home, both parties could be liable for the loss so it may be in her best interests as well to wait to sell the home. That way if there were any debt associated with the home, the parties should share in that marital debt. Again, this is contingent on the structure and terms of your agreement.

However, unless your agreement does involve a requirement that there be equity in the house, or unless the other party agrees to the extension, you will be bound by the terms of your agreement. If it states that in 5 years you will refinance or sell the home, it is likely that you will have to sell or refinance.

Consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction for specific legal advice as I have only provided you general information. Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide.


Ashley A. Hughes is a Staff Attorney in the Colorado Springs, Colorado office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices family law exclusively with a focus on men’s divorce. Ms. Hughes is licensed in the state of Colorado. Ms. Hughes received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Political Science from the University of Colorado. She later received her Juris Doctor Cum Laude from the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law.

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